If you were like me as a kid, then when it came to Goosebumps – you couldn’t read them because your mother was in a rotating number of cults that saw various things as satanic. Disney, Goosebumps, women. All evil.
So I would sneak places to read things and go to a friend’s house to watch the good stuff we couldn’t see at home, like Goosebumps- although I was probably more into the Scary Stories to Read in the Dark books.
So of course I wanted to see the Goosebumps movie, stunted childhood and all that. I was excited to see what was what.
The set-up is simple: New kid is in like with his female neighbor who is isolated in the house alone with her father, Jack Black. He thinks she’s in trouble one day, cops don’t beleive him, so goes to rescue her and finds a bookshelf filled with locked original editions of Goosebumps stories. He busts one open and . . all teen versions of hell break loose. They then have to put all these creations back in the book. Oh, and there’s a spring formal type dance going on. And the cops are imbeciles because. . .of course. Our hero can’t be a hero if the cops do their jobs.
The Good: Special effects were fun. There was some humour throughout, as well. The action moved, as did the story, so I wasn’t really bored. It’s a cross between kind of many movies of the type. Some Jumanji, that one with Brendan Fraser where the books come to life, monster movies. It also felt like a continuation of Cabin in the Woods- what happens when all the monsters are released, but those from daycare first. There is a not nice nod to Stephen King, or a couple jokes at his expense. An extended sequence involving garden gnomes was well done and way creepy, which was nice. Jack Black voices Slappy, the Ventriloquist dummy so close to Mark Hamil’s Joker that I had to look up who the voice was. So that was wonderfully creepy if confusing.
I think the nods were done well and there were probably tons of ‘easter eggs’ for those who read the books or grew up on them. It might also be more a case of jokes being the pointing out of nostaligic things rather than real jokes, but I definitely laughed at spots.
The Bad: Jack Black as RL Stine. Someone at work was talking about the movie today and asking what his accent was supposed to be besides annoying and I had no idea. It’s annoying. He leads with his chest and you just want to smack him throughout. Some of the throwbacks end up feeling recycled and thus boring. Obvious product placement, most notably in a scene where, for some reason, they decide to go to a grocery store on the way to the school. Oh look at that name of a hipster popcorn they fling into! look how the camera lingers on the packages of food with incredibly clear and well-lit labels! How wonderful! Parts of the story too (and this is a story about a story, ultimately) are so incredibly predictable BUT since this is middle-grade literature, I let that part pass. Kids and adults who just want background stuff will have a fine time with this (and I did have a fine time with this part of it).
The Female: This is where it gets troublesome. There are four women in the film:
The mom. She is played by Amy Ryan, so great in The Office. And here she is – the mom. She moves her male child to this little town where she has a job and after the death of her husband. This is her existence.
The Aunt. Another wasted talent in Jillian Bell. Love her! And she is attacked by a demonic poodle. But she is defined by her desire for a man. That’s her ‘character trait.’ She talked about wanting a man, then meet’s Jack Black’s RL Stine and number exchange. Poof.
Hanna AKA The Love Interest. I liked Hanna at first. Yes, she was the flirty neighbor with a secret but she was fighting with the boys. But, in a troublesome move, she is a creation of RL Stine. Oh no! So she loses her corporality a couple times in the film, then sacrifices herself to go back in a book when all creatures have to go. So, we have a toughish female and she was created by the main adult male. Who then recreates her because teen boy hero misses her. She kisses him, he wins the prize, a woman written just for him. Yeah.
The newbie cop. She’s a newbie cop. A male cop is treating her like a child. She gets frozen.
This made the movie more troublesome for me. I didn’t think about representation or anything like that as a kid and now don’t wonder as much about all these feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy and not mattering. Sure, psycho mom had a large part in it but not seeing myself, my gender as anything of value on screen hurts. Here the three women are all defined only in relationship to men. There is nothing of them in the characters, no personal thing to make them human. The closest to a fleshed out character is written to be that teen male fantasy, literally. What does this say to young girls? How can they view this? Who is there to step into and role play if you want to identify not as a male. *sigh* I am really becoming more aware about portrayals here, and this wasn’t good.
Oh, and apparently in this entire town besides there only being four females, there is no one who isn’t white. So there’s that too. If there was an extra who wasn’t white, I must have blinked.